Turkish national public holidays include international public holidays, important dates in the nation’s history and major religious events. On these days banks, administration offices, schools, government offices and some businesses are closed. Although government and many private museums are closed, tourist centres such as Istanbul, Antalya, Izmir and Bodrum can be extremely busy as many Turks take the opportunity to have a short break. This is especially the case when the holiday is being held to celebrate a religious occasion. During the two main ones, Kurban Bayramı and Şeker Bayramı it’s obligatory for family members to visit one another, so interstate flights, buses and trains will be heavily booked. If you’re planning to travel to Turkey during these periods it’s advisable to book interstate flights, buses, tours and accommodation well in advance. If driving, roads are busier than usual. To help you plan your holiday here’s a list of Turkey national public holidays for 2017.
1 January: New Year’s Day
23 April: National Sovereignty and Children’s Day1
1 May: Labour and Solidarity Day2
19 May: Commemoration of Ataturk, Youth and Sports Day3
27 May – June 25: Holy Month of Ramazan
26 June – 28 June: Şeker Bayramı (end of Ramazan) – a feast of chocolates and sweets
15 July: Democracy and National Solidarity Day4
30 August: Victory Day5
1 September – 4 September: Sacrifice (Kurban Bayramı) Feast
28 October: Republic Day Eve
29 October: Republic Day6
- National Sovereignty & Children’s Day
Solemn ceremonies and children’s festivals take place throughout Turkey on National Sovereignty and Children’s Day (Ulusal Egemenlik ve Çocuk Bayramı), held on April 23 each year. This commemoration of the first opening of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey at Ankara in 1920 sees children take seats in the Turkish Parliament and symbolically govern the country for one day. Elsewhere school children march in unison, bearing the Turkish flag, people attend local ceremonies or lay wreaths at monuments of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic.
- Labour & Solidarity Day
In Turkey, Labour and Solidarity Day (Emek ve Dayanışma Günü), internationally known as May Day, is an occasion for people to celebrate improvements in working conditions and to demand better conditions for skilled labourers and union workers. In recent years peaceful demonstrations have turned ugly, and in Istanbul much of the public transport system is shut down to prevent large gatherings. It’s wise to plan your movements accordingly.
- Commemoration of Atatürk Youth & Sports Day
Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day (Atatürk’ü Anma Gençlik ve Spor Bayramı) includes state ceremonies and sports events throughout the country on May 19 each year. Although the exact date of Atatürk’s birth isn’t known, many Turks celebrate May 19 as his birthday, because he used to say he was born on that day. It was on this day in 1919 that Atatürk arrived in the Black Sea province of Samsun where he started the Turkish Nationalist Movement. This led to the start of the Turkish War of Independence which resulted in the foundation of the modern Turkish Republic four years later. Many people lay wreaths on his monuments to commemorate this day and hang Turkish flags featuring his profile from their windows.
- Democracy and National Solidarity Day
On July 15, 2016 a failed coup took place which resulted in the deaths of at least 241 people, including seven civilians who were shot dead as they resisted the coup forces near the Akıncı air force base north of Ankara. In the immediate aftermath of the coup, a number of structures and public spaces were renamed, most notably Istanbul’s Bosphorus Bridge, which was retitled the “July 15 Martyrs’ Bridge.”
- Victory Day
Victory Day (Zafer Bayramı) commemorates the crucial Turkish victory against Greek forces in the Battle of Dumlupınar (August 26-30, 1922). The outcome of this battle helped determine the overall outcome of the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1923). Shops, public offices, hotels and people’s houses are awash with Turkish flags, and military parades and ceremonies at monuments to Atatürk are held.
- Republic Day
Republic Day (Cumhuriyet Bayramı) marks the creation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. The Turkish parliament proclaimed the new Turkish state a republic after the nation’s victory in the War of Independence. A new constitution was adopted on October 29, 1923, replacing the constitution of the Ottoman Empire. On the same day Mustafa Kemal Atatürk became the country’s first president. On Republic Day people go to theatre, poetry and traditional Turkish dance performances dedicated to the Republic of Turkey. Parades are held in some towns and cities, people lay wreaths in memory of Atatürk and in the evening many cities hold traditional processions with flags and musical bands, ending the night with firework displays.
If you want to know more about everyday life in Istanbul, away from the tourist centres, check out my latest book Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom: Adrift in Istanbul.